Opening a bank account in France

Opening a bank account in France
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Updated 2021-07-20 11:52

Opening a bank account in France is fairly simple and straightforward. The competition between different banks is so intense that in many cases, banks will even offer monetary gifts as well as privileges such as premium bank cards (gold cards) in order to attract new customers. Online banks are also becoming increasingly popular in France, with many of these banks being subsidiaries of reputable and established institutions, so be sure to consider the online options as well. It might also be possible for you to initiate the process of opening an account from abroad.

Procedures for opening a French bank account

To open a bank account in France, the following documents are required:

  • Passport
  • Proof of a long-stay visa (serving as a resident permit)
  • Proof of accommodation (utility bills or lease documents or receipt)
  • Probably a sample of your signature for confirmation during your banking transactions

If you hold an offer of employment, it might be worthwhile bringing your contract as proof of remuneration, as this might make you eligible for some special services offered by the bank. For example, HSBC offers a premier service for individuals earning a salary above a certain threshold. The additional services included in the premier services include enhanced support in the case of fraud and a streamlined process for the opening of HSBC accounts internationally.

Choosing a bank in France

It might be more convenient to open an account with a French bank such as Société Générale, BNP Paribas or Crédit Agricole, as these have a wide network across the country, making it easier to reach out to advisors should you need specific services or support. If you intend to buy a home and get a mortgage, it might be convenient to first look at the banks which offer generous lending rates.

Internet-only banks are also becoming increasingly popular in France. These banks offer the full palette of services and virtually the same guarantees as traditional brick-and-mortar banks but have lower fees that can be attractive. Some of the most popular banks include Boursorama, ING Direct and Hello Bank, to name just a few. In fact, many of the online banks are subsidiaries of more conventional banks, giving them an additional element of security for those who are not accustomed to the concept of online banks.

Joint accounts

As in many countries, you may open a joint account in France with two beneficiaries (either your spouse or your partner). Keep in mind that all transactions require a signature, and as a result, both beneficiaries have to be present for the opening procedures. In case of absence of one of the beneficiaries, a signed authorisation letter can be produced along with an accompanying identity card.

Services

All French banks are required to provide bank account information to their customers (a Relevés d'Identité Bancaire - more commonly known as a RIB). This information is required for bank transfers and direct debits. Current accounts, for their part, are attached to a debit and payment card and an optional cheque book.

Note that fees generally apply for the bank card and account, but it is possible to negotiate that these fees be waived in the first year following enrolment. You may request to receive your bank statements either by post or view them online. Most accounts will also allow overdraft facilities, but the interest rates on overdrafts can be high, reaching double digits in most cases.

Useful links:

Service Public ' Opening a bank account
Fédération Bancaire Française
Banque de France
BNP Paribas
Société Générale
Caisse d'Epargne
Crédit Agricole
Le Crédit Lyonnais

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